Well, yet another NaNoWriMo is threatening to shut down the family and home lives of many this year!
This will be my fourth year of participating. It will be on my fourth novel. Technically it’s not a true NaNo book, since I’ve already written into the fourth chapter, but I’ll be trying to get 50K new words written on it before December starts. That’s right…my already written and revised stuff will not count toward my word count for NaNo purposes.
Last year I was a Municipal Liasion, and would have done so again this year if life hadn’t reached up and grabbed me by the ankle. Between the move, the new job, the house, the sick cat, and actually starting to have a social life outside of gaming, writing, or the internet (yes, that means I am dating someone), there’s just no way that I can pull off as much as I have in the past. It’s still going to be a challenge. Why is that?
November is a month for take out. It’s a month for cramming as many dishes into the dishwasher, and for the speed-mowing that is “good-enough”. I try to have my Christmas cards written out before November even starts so that I don’t have to hurry before Christmas when the brain is whimpering from the decorating, the shopping, the social events, and recovering from NaNo. It’s also a good time-killer and distractor when you’re itching to get cracking on your NaNo novel, and you can’t get word count toward your goal because November hasn’t started yet.
I recommend to all first time NaNo participants out there the following:
1) Stock up on junk food and caffeine. Chocolate really can help you through the writer’s block. And it generally takes little to no cooking time.
2) Have a community you can commiserate with. Whether it’s your local NaNo group, your own writer’s community, the NaNo forums, or your understanding and about-to-be-put-upon family. You’ll need it.
3) Warn your friends, family and co-workers that you are about to lose your mind for about 30 days. It will come back.
If you are in charge of food prep for your family, put someone else in charge or start freezing some casseroles ahead of time. Putting the pizza delivery place on speed dial and teaching your kids/spouse/roommate/significant other/cat or dog/gremlin to pick up after themselves for thirty days will also help. Promising them thanks in the acknowledgements page if you ever get the thing published is not enough, but it is a good start. Reminding them that they will have your attention all through Christmas, and undistracted by rampant plot genies may motivate them. If nothing else, make Halloween very cool for them, and promise a pretty awesome Christmas (This does NOT mean spend a lot of money, by the way).
Last year, I did a lot of muttering about having a Ding Dong problem. (Yes, I do mean those Hostess cakes. If you thought I meant something else, you have a sick and dirty mind.) It was a plot problem in a story. Warning people ahead of time that random mutterings may be due to your writing may fend off any attempts to place you in a rubber room. So in that sense, it is self-defense.
4) I did say warn your co-workers. I meant it. That also means, no writing during work hours, unless on your break or at lunch unless your boss has told you that it’s okay. That’s pretty rare. It also goes without saying not to print off your novel at work unless you get approval. Please do not risk your employment in an economy like this. It’s too hard to get a new job, and especially will be harder as the holidays descend.
5) Chris Baty and the guys and gals at the Office of Letters and Light will tell you that it is possible to write a novel in 30 days without having any idea about plot before you start. I can’t do that. If you’re like me, start gathering up your planning materials and be organized for the first day’s rush. Your organization will crumble before it’s all over, but at least start out knowing where all your outlines and ideas are headed. And where they’re filed.
6) Get ahead in word count early and often if possible. To stay on track to finish, you must write 1667 words per day to finish on time. Every day you don’t write puts you 1667 words behind. For me, if the story’s really cooking, I can get over 1000 words in an hour. That means 2-3 hours per day to get ahead and stay ahead. I take longer amounts of time on weekends, so that I can take days off during the week and stay sane. If I average 12,500 words per week, I can still make it. I’ve had the 10K word Saturday. My brain is mush when this happens, and it doesn’t always happen, so I can’t count on it.
This year the first day is on a Sunday, which means that most people will not be working. Take advantage of it and get a couple days ahead. That doesn’t mean that you get to slack off on Monday. Save up that surplus for the day that your dog needs an emergency run to the vet or you end up with a kid with H1N1 at home, or you have to spend time cooking Thanksgiving dinner when you didn’t expect to. I guess what I’m saying is…have a pad of word count in case of emergency. That way you can’t fall too far behind unless something absolutely catastrophic happens.
7) Remember that the world will not end if you do not get to 50K. I’ve had a year that I didn’t get there. Between getting sick, falling down Mom and Dad’s stairs at Thanksgiving and hurting my back, and a plot that was just not cooperating, I wasn’t able to pull it off, but I was behind when these things happened. I had to suck it up and realize that the inability to sit at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time meant that I just couldn’t do it. I got over 30K. For me, that year, that was still an accomplishment. And I came back stronger than ever with another novel hitting 50K with time to spare the next year.
8.) Understand that the holiday weight gain begins early for you, with all the caffeine and junk you will end up ingesting to stay sane. Get ahead on word count, and go work out. Write for an hour and then go for a walk. Be sure to exercise more muscles than just your brain, or you will no longer fit in your favorite reindeer sweatervest for the holidays.
9) Really really clean and get all household chores done early. That way you can let it go a bit during the month of November. It’s okay not to vacuum every day. It’s okay if the kids eat McDonalds. It’s okay if you don’t dust every week. It’s just for November. Be prepared to catch up at the beginnining of December for the holidays, but don’t obsess about it in November unless you are hosting Thanksgiving. And if you are, you are crazy on a level that I can’t match. Time to go negotiate the hosting of Christmas instead, if you can.
10) Enjoy. This is writing at its most pure, its most fun, and its most addictive level possible. Everything is shiny and new. It’s easy to believe that you are writing a masterpiece. Believe it. Live it. Give that internal editor a swift kick in the pants and tell them that they are banished until December.
Understand that when NaNo is over and your novel is written, it is not completed. You will have many many hours of editing, critiquing, workshopping, shaping, chopping, deleting and angsting yet to come. You WILL NOT be sending it out in December; you won’t have time with the catching up on family stuff, housecleaning, reminding loved ones that they are loved and the holidays. You will likely not be sending it out in January. That will be when you can edit. And that will take longer than you think. That is when you’ll realize that November’s gold really isn’t. But enough about that. I’ll post about that later.
For now…enjoy the anticipation. And Dayton NaNoers…I’m with you. Let’s drive up that word count!